St. Jude & World Health Organization virologist Dr. Richard Webby has predictions about flu season
By relaxing preventative measures against COVID-19, flu season may come back with a vengeance.
MEMPHIS, TENN. – As we head into flu season at a time when COVID-19 precautions throughout the world are starting to wane, Richard Webby, Ph.D, a member of the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization’s Influenza Vaccine Composition Advisory Team, offered a stern warning that the upcoming flu season could be an active one.
“While much of the world was in lockdown and taking precautions against COVID-19, there was virtually no flu season,” said Dr. Webby. “Many of the measures we used such as hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, and wearing masks to protect ourselves against COVID were also responsible for preventing influenza. But this lull in flu activity is only temporary; it is possible we may see the flu virus roaring back with a vengeance starting this fall as we relax these preventative measures.”
Dr. Webby authored a paper in Nature Communications, where he argues that mitigation efforts, such as social distancing, mask wearing and washing hands has helped reduce flu activity this season. Drawing off the experience of New Zealand, he also suggests in the paper that some of these same protocols – including lockdowns, border closers and other related measures – could help control future pandemics.
“We will be watching what happens in the Southern Hemisphere to see how much flu activity is starting to occur. If flu activity starts to rise in the Southern Hemisphere, it will give us a critical preview of what may be headed our way in the United States and how we can take early, precautionary steps to mitigate the impact. Right now flu activity is still low, but RSV – a respiratory virus that was also pushed out by COVID precautions – is hitting Australia and New Zealand particularly hard,” concluded Dr. Webby.
Dr. Webby is a leading, expert voice on the importance of getting the flu-vaccine with guest pieces in CNN, Newsweek, and FOX News. A world-renowned virologist, he is an often-sought-after source for on-the-record commentary by national, international and local media for expert advice and analysis on the spread of influenza and other contagious viruses.
Learn about the importance of getting the flu shot here.